Concern in Malawi after president dies
Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika has died of a heart attack, medical and government sources said on Friday, and the United States expressed alarm at an apparent delay in swearing in his vice-president as successor.
Mutharika, 78, was hardly mourned, being widely seen as an autocrat responsible for a stunning economic collapse. He died Thursday.
The constitution is clear that Vice-president Joyce Banda should take over as head of state, but succession is not clear because Banda was booted out of Mutharika’s ruling DPP party in 2010 after an argument about succession.
Mutharika appeared to have been grooming his brother Peter, the foreign minister, as his de facto successor.
“Malawi’s constitution lays out a clear path for succession and we expect it to be observed,” the U.S. State Department said. “We trust that the vicepresident who is next in line will be sworn in shortly.”
At a news conference late Friday, Banda, a women’s rights activist, refused to say whether she had become southern Africa’s first female head of state. She has, however, met diplomats and military chiefs, signalling she intends to take charge.
Mutharika’s body was flown to South Africa because an energy crisis in Malawi was so severe a proper autopsy was not guaranteed, nor could the body have been refrigerated, sources said.